Editor’s note: Made in Tarrant is an occasional Q&A series on small businesses started in Tarrant County. Submit your business here.

Who: Brett Bowden, CEO 

When: 2010, from Bowden’s garage

What: Printed Threads is a merchandise company that specializes in screen printing, embroidery and fulfillment. The company has roots in making merchandise for bands. Among Printed Threads’ clients are Pat Green, Gateway Church, Heim Barbecue and the Flying Saucer, according to their website. The company prints about 5,000 T-shirts a day. 

Where: 210 South Freeway, Fort Worth, TX, 76104

Website: www.printedthreads.com

Fort Worth Report spoke with Brett Bowden about the business. This interview has been edited for content, length, grammar and clarity.

Seth Bodine: Tell me how Printed Threads started.

Brett Bowden: In 2010, my wife and I moved from Colorado to Texas where I grew up. And that was because I had just graduated college. We decided to move to be closer to my family. She was a nurse and was able to get a great job here. I was a cable guy but had just received my degree in music and wanted to be a teacher. But around that time, we were in a recession and government agencies weren’t hiring and so I really struggled getting a job as a teacher.

The company I worked for went out of business so I was laid off and it kind of just kicked into gear. So our little print shop called Printed Threads and in our family’s garage, ended up printing more and more T-shirts and we went and got a facility and the facility kept growing and by 2015 we were on Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing companies list at number 826. Because we were just doing a good job and making relationships with lots of people and the company was growing really quickly. 

Bodine: How did you fundraise to get off the ground? 

Bowden: My wife and I went to the bank to see how much money they would loan us and they loaned us $7,000 And I used that $7,000 as wisely as I could. I bought some used equipment. I got some favors from some friends that helped supply me with inks and stuff. And then we just started going at it. We didn’t or I did not take a paycheck for two and a half years. My wife was a nurse at Cook Children’s and we lived off of her salary. And we went to every Chick-fil-A opening that we could to do the campout thing where you get to a year with a free chicken. And that the only place that we went out to eat for years was Chick- fil-A because we had these free coupons. 

 We just didn’t have any money. But we paid all of our bills because my wife had a good job and I just worked really, really, really hard. It was 16 hours to 24 hours a day, every single day for years.

I got pretty burnt with it too, around 2015. We actually bought an RV and I just left. We left. We packed up our kids. At the time we had three kids in an RV and we drove around the country for a year and a half. 

Bodine: Wow. So you took a break?

Bowden: I had to take a break. I was breaking.

It was really hard on the business. Everybody in your business, everybody that works in a business wants to do the best they can. But they need your vision and they need your guidance and they need your leadership. And I wasn’t being a leader. I was just absent. 

I had to learn a lot about being a leader. I still do. I go to business leadership groups every month to learn how to be a better leader. It’s really hard because you know, we’re human and we make a lot of mistakes. It’s important to communicate with your team members as peers because we’re all in this together. We all want to go to a place to work and be successful. 

Bodine: Do you regret going on that year-and-a-half trip?

Bowden: I think I desperately needed it. It was amazing. It was giving me time back with my family. In 2015 my oldest would have been 7 years old and my daughter would have been 5 years old and I just didn’t get to spend any time with them when they were little. I have a son now that is about to be 3 years old and I’ve been able to spend so much time with him. And looking back on it now I realize I just wasn’t ever home. I was working crazy hours trying to get this thing going. That’s really hard on me, it was hard on my wife. It was hard on my kids. 

So the company lost a bunch of money. We almost went bankrupt because of it. I mean, it was like a very humbling experience to walk back and try to figure out how to fix this. Around that time we hired now-president Ryan Graves, who came on as VP of operations and together we worked really hard to dig out of that hole and it matured us as a company a great deal. 

Bodine: How long did it take? 

Bowden: It was probably two years, two years of fighting an uphill battle to get on solid ground again. It was scary. Yeah, it was scary.

Bodine: Everyone says it takes a lot to start a business. How do you protect yourself in the process? 

Bowden: Balance is really difficult and you really need help, you need guidance. You need a business coach. You need peers that are going through the same thing as you. It’s really easy to feel alone when you’re going through that stuff. 

Bodine: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a business? 

Bowden: I think that I think passion is the fuel. I think anything is possible, but seek something over passion, not financial gain. Because it might be a long time before money comes. Finding the people in your city that are advocates for small businesses is extremely important. Because you’re definitely going down an uncharted path. You can follow a template for how to start a restaurant or a template or how to start any kind of business, but your business isn’t always going to fit inside the template. So I think my biggest advice is to be passionate. Understand that it’s not about money and find people that can help you.

Bodine: Anything else you’d like to add? 

Bowden: There was a time where things were really hard. I saw this Mark Cuban quote. And the quote was “When you feel like giving up, remember why you started in the first place.” And that kind of set me on this path of why. And Simon Sinek has a great talk and book about it called “Start with Why.”

I think that really set me on this kind of soul-searching mission of like, what is it that makes me excited to come here today, even on the hardest days? And that for me was, I love people. And I love connecting with people, I love working with other people. I love helping other people. So I think for me, Printed Threads has become about ‘How do I help our local business community? Where can I give, where can I inspire, where can I connect with more people?’ 

I would just love for Printed Threads to be the greatest advocate and friend and partner and business for all other businesses in the Fort Worth community.

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow him on Twitter at @sbodine120

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email hello@fortworthreport.org.

Avatar photo

Seth BodineBusiness Reporter

Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....